Given that the Puma of the late 1990s arrived with the bold tagline ‘A driver’s dream’, Ford’s decision to reprise the name of its pint-size coupé on the tailgate of a crossover seems perplexing.
With a larger frontal area, a higher centre of gravity and more weight, this new Puma clearly distances itself from traditional ‘driver’s dream’ territory where the 1034kg original did everything budgets would allow to get closer.
But times have changed. Today, the compact crossover class is bursting at the seams with members as manufacturers cash in on demand and the mass-market space for more unusual, enthusiast-minded projects has rapidly shrunk.
However, what this segment has long been devoid of is something genuinely good to drive, which is where – Ford says – this new Puma will justify its name. The car will slot into the range between the dreary EcoSport and the Kuga and it shares a platform with the Fiesta, which, as you may have heard, is easily the dynamic benchmark in the supermini class.
The Puma is the first small Ford to use hybrid power, in the form of a 48V system bolstering a three-cylinder petrol turbo engine. The car’s striking design, which has been described as ‘anti-wedge’ by one Ford designer, is intended to steal sales from more premium brands, notably Mini. Strong ergonomics are also promised, with the Puma possessing one of the largest boot capacities in the class, more passenger space than the Fiesta and what Ford calls the Megabox, more on which in a moment. Fully digital instrument dials and level two ‘autonomous’ driver aids should add to its appeal.
The Puma line-up at a glance
For now, the UK Puma line-up is relatively straightforward. Power comes from Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol three-pot, which is available with either 123bhp or 153bhp. Mild-hybrid assistance is an option for the 123bhp unit and standard on the 153bhp engine. All are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox that drives the front wheels.
The trim line-up is also simple: our Titanium-spec test car represents the entry level and is followed by ST-Line and ST-Line X. A diesel-powered Puma and a sportier ST performance model are in the pipeline, the latter expected to be officially revealed at some point this year.